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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chelo Kebab

"Only Bongs can think of mixing sweet rice with chicken tikka," my friend remarked. I looked at the menu again. Chelo kebab. What the hell was that? I am a least by name and family...I've never heard of anything called Chelo Kebab. Nonetheless, we ordered them. I love trying out new stuff and Copper Chimney comes up with really nice kebabs, so it was a good bet, I thought.

It hardly looked appetising. Worse, it didn't really look like a Bong dish. But then, the glutinous curd rice was sweet. My friend insisted I have more. I helped myself to the chicken pieces, as he indulged in the rice. "It's very Bong and it's delicious," he told me. I still had my doubts and I couldn't really enjoy the dish because of them.

Later that day, I asked mom about Chelo kebab. She hadn't even heard of it. She didn't think it was a Bong dish till I told her about the sweet rice. "It may be a Bangladeshi dish," she said. I asked friends, relatives and all the i-know-it-all people I know, but none of them seemed to know Chelo.

Finally, I searched on google. There it was. National dish of Iran - Chelo kebab. The Mughals or the early Iranian settlers may have brought it to India, but it certainly wasn't Bong. I was glad. My friend was wrong. I called him up and fired him. "Stop spreading wrong information about Bongs." He simply laughed and I felt like a fool.

As for the dish - I must admit, it's worth a try. Imagine less-sweetened kheer with chicken reshmi tikka cubes. It comes close to that.

Chelo kabab is a national dish of Iran. The meal is simple, consisting of steamed, saffroned basmati or Persian rice (chelow) and kabab, of which there are several distinct Persian varieties. This dish is served everywhere throughout Iran today, but traditionally was most closely associated with the northern part of the country.

It is served with the basic Iranian meal accompaniments, in addition to grilled tomatoes on the side of the rice, and butter on top of the rice. It is an old northern tradition (probably originating in Tehran) that a raw egg yolk should be placed on top of the rice as well, though this is strictly optional, and most restaurants will not serve the rice this way unless it is specifically requested. Somagh (powdered sumac) is also made available, and if desired, only a dash should be sprinkled upon the rice.

In the old bazaar tradition, the rice (which is covered with a tin lid) and accompaniments are served first, immediately followed by the kababs, which are brought to the table by the waiter, who holds several skewers in his left hand, and a piece of flat bread (typically nan-e lavash) in his right. A skewer is placed directly on the rice and while holding the kabab down on the rice with the bread, the skewer is quickly pulled out. With the two most common kababs, barg and koobideh, two skewers are always served. In general, bazaar kabab restaurants only serve these two varieties, though there are exceptions.

The traditional beverage of choice to accompany chelow kabab is doogh, a Persian sour yogurt drink, flavored with salt and mint, and sometimes made with carbonated mineral water.

1 comment:

Wolverine said...

Yummy, one of my all time favourites at CC.
In fact, the chelo made at copper chimney is better than the ones they serve in Irani joints. chalta hai kya, for a round of Chelo?